Posted: Feb 22, 2013 11:16 AM
Updated: Feb 22, 2013 11:16 AM
EDITORS: Not for broadcast, publication or use online:
Welcome to another installment of the Texas Association of Broadcasters' Open Government/Newsroom Billwatch. The 83rd Texas Legislature is in session and TAB's Newsroom Legislative Committee is at work with its session-long review of bills that might impact Texas broadcast newsrooms.
There are two weeks left to the March 8 bill filing deadline. There are two newsroom-related and one Open Government related measures that will be filed very soon.
One of the newsroom bills would establish a uniform process for broadcasters and newspapers to issue retractions and minimize their legal exposure under such situations.
The other would clarify appropriate jurisdiction for cases brought under the anti-SLAPP law TAB and other media groups passed in 2011. The Open Government-related bill will attempt to bring the state's public information and meeting laws into the 21st century by getting a handle on electronic communications involving those conducting public business, be it texting or email.
Laura Prather with TAB Associate Member Haynes & Boone, and a longtime member of the TAB Newsroom Legislative Committee, crafted all three pieces of legislation. Prather was the lead attorney on TAB's successful effort to pass the reporter shield law in 2009 and again on the joint effort to pass the anti-SLAPP law in 2011.
Looking ahead to next week, the Senate Committee on Open Government will hold its first meeting on Monday afternoon (2/25) at 1pm in 2E.20 of the Capitol.
-- SB 176 - Consultant Reports By Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas
Requires a consulting services contract to include provisions that allow the state agency contracting with the consultant and any other state agency and the legislature, at the contracting state agency's discretion, to distribute the consultant report, if any, and to post the report on the agency's Internet website or the website of a standing committee of the legislature.
-- SB 279 - Data Sets By Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin
Would create even more access to state agency high-value data sets on the Internet. It augments a bill Sen. Watson passed last session creating access to the data sets which include, but are not limited to, data that is critical to the financial and programmatic function of state agencies. These can contain a wealth of information for original reporting on how state agencies are utilizing taxpayer dollars to provide state services. Thanks to Watson's efforts in 2011, such data is now accessible in an open standard, raw data format that's free for the public to download, analyze, and use.
-- SB 293 - Open Meetings / Water Districts By Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands
Allows river authorities, groundwater conservation districts, water control and improvement districts (with land in 3 or more counties) to meet by telephone conference call or video conference call under provisions set forth in the Texas Open Meetings Act
TEXAS ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS NEWSROOM BILLWATCH - Feb. 22, 2013
-- HB 1295 - Motor Vehicle Accident Reports By Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball
Allows TXDOT to outsource the administration of release of accident report information currently held by the department. Requestors will still have to provide two of the following: date of the accident, address where accident occurred, name of any person involved in the accident. The fee for a copy of the report is still $6.
-- HB 1331/SB 408 - TDLR Investigations By Rep. Phil Stephenson, R-Wharton; Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas
Amends existing law related to complaints and investigations by the Texas Dept. of Licensing and Regulation. Closes access to investigatory files but keeps final disposition information available.
-- HB 1344 - Expunction By Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg
Allows individuals who have been placed under a custodial or noncustodial arrest for an offense other than an offense under Title 5, Penal Code (sex offense), to have all records and files related to the arrest expunged if select conditions are met.
-- HB 1350 - Political Advertising By Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio
Prohibits a state agency (which is headed by a statewide elected official) from using appropriated money to broadcast an advertisement, notice, or announcement featuring the office holder within the 60-day period preceding the date of any election in which the officer appears on the ballot as a candidate. As a practical matter, most broadcast outlets refuse to accept such advertising during election years anyway because of the "equal access" provision of the FCC's political broadcast regulations.
-- HB 1359 - Orders of Non-Disclosure By Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas
Shortens the time frame under existing law allowing criminal defendants to seek an order of non-disclosure of an arrest, dismissal or deferred adjudication.
-- HB 1390/SB 246 - Electronic OAG Request for Opinion By Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving; Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas
Allows those individuals who are authorized by law to request a formal attorney general opinion to submit requests electronically. Under current law, the only way for someone to request a formal opinion from the Attorney General is to file that request through certified or registered mail, with return receipt requested. In OAG's experience, most requests for formal opinions are sent electronically (via e-mail) or through the regular U.S. mail. This may help speed up, slightly, the decision making process for potential release of information.
-- HB 1398 - "Stand By Your Ad" By Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston
Would impose the "stand by your ad" provisions of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act on state and local candidates. Currently, only federal candidates are subject to them. This is the provision that requires a candidate to acknowledge that they approved the content of their own political ads and who paid for them.
-- HB 1435 - Landfill Disclosure By Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo
General bill on notices, reports, and descriptions provided by or filed with court and county clerks. Includes a provision to require more record keeping for deeds to land formerly used as wastefills. The records are public.
-- HB 1439 - Sealing Arrest Affidavits By Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownville
Creates a 31 day sealing mechanism for complaints used to issue an arrest warrant if: public disclosure of the complaint would jeopardize the safety of a victim, witness, or confidential informant or cause the destruction of material that may constitute evidence in the case; or the complaint contains information obtained from a court-ordered wiretap that has not expired at the time the attorney representing the state requests the sealing of the complaint. A single, 30-day extension may be requested after the original order expires. Neither prohibits disclosure of the arrest warrant itself. It also adds "complaint" to existing language saying arrest warrants and affidavits are public information.
-- HB 1474 - Teachers Retirement System of Texas By Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio
Requires, among other things, to have the board of trustees of the Texas Retirement System of Texas to have training in the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Public Information Act and state ethics laws.
-- HB 1487 - State Expenditure Databases By Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving
Amends existing law concerning the searchable online state expenditure database maintained by the State Comptroller's office. The database allows users to search and aggregate state funding by any element of information and ascertain through a single search the total amount of state funding awarded to a person by a state agency. It also allows a download of such information. HB 1487 adds that for a state expenditure in the form of a grant, users must be able to ascertain the specific purposes for which the grant money was used.
-- HB 1487 - Gas Utility Rate Hikes By Rep. Linda Harper-Brown, R-Irving
Strikes bracketing information requiring newspaper notice of gas utility rate hikes. Current law says utilities can mail notice instead in areas outside of municipality or in cities of 2,500 or less. HB 1487 also adds a provision that allows utilities to email notice instead of snail mail it.
-- HB 1529 - School District Financial Information By Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Frisco
Requires online registers of school district checking account information so the public could review district expenditures. The check information would include amount, purpose, payee, date, etc. It also calls for a spreadsheet of credit cards issued to the district itself and to its employees featuring similar information as the check registry. It also requires aggregate salary information to be posted online for a variety of district employee classifications as well.
-- HB 1576 - Insider Trading By Rep. Van Taylor, R-Plano
Amends the Government Code with an "insider trading" section aimed at preventing state officials, state employees and their relatives from benefiting financially or materially from information held by the state but that may be deemed confidential by statute or rule. HB 1576 would create a third degree felony.
-- SB 653 - Open Meetings / TGSLC By Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo
Amends existing law concerning the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation by adding a governing board meeting conference call component in addition to those allowed under the Texas Open Meetings Act.
-- SB 656 - Cities / Budget and Tax Record Votes By Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney
Requires municipalities to have record votes on tax rates and when approving budgets. Also calls for notice requirements when a tax rate or budget is increased from the previous year as well as Internet posting of the same.
-- SB 657 - School Districts / Budget and Tax Record Votes By Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney
Requires school districts to have record votes on tax rates and when approving budgets. Also calls for notice requirements when a tax rate or budget is increased from the previous year as well as Internet posting of the same.
Contact TAB's Michael Schneider: 512-322-9944.